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Measure 114 will go into affect in January; Legislature could affect changes

PMG FILE PHOTO - Measure 114 was adopted by a slim margin by voters in the Nov. 8 election.

Juniper Rook, 17, is too young to vote. But that didn't keep her from constantly refreshing the online vote totals for Measure 114, which she campaigned for in the hopes that it would keep her and her classmates safe. When the lead of the Yes on Measure 114 campaign in Bend texted her to say it passed, she cried.

"It's just so surreal to know that Oregon is one of the states that's taking a first big step to creating a safer place for all people," Rook said.

The high school student, who lives in Redmond, said she and many of her friends can feel anxious about going to school because shootings have become so common. She said she started advocating for stricter gun laws when 17 students were killed at Stoneman Douglas High school in Florida. She was 12.

"I feel like even adults who aren't parents kind of have this responsibility to keep kids my age safe," she said. "And it really was not happening up until now. It was super disappointing."

Last week, though, she was proud of the grown-ups.

Amazement, sadness, fear, relief, a renewed faith in humanity and a dark feeling that things will keep getting worse — all of these reactions swept the state as it became clear this week that Measure 114 would pass by about two percentage points.

Thirty days after the vote is certified, the new laws requiring a permit to purchase a firearm and banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition will go into effect. The change will rocket Oregon from the middle of the pack to among the 10 states with the tightest gun regulations in the country. And for many on both sides, the coming changes feel deeply personal in a way that will change their daily life.

Paul Donheffner, the legislative committee chairman with the Oregon Hunters Association who had advocated against Measure 114, was disappointed. What, he wondered, would his various hunting associations use for their fundraising raffles if they couldn't give rifles to people who may not have up-to-date purchase permits?

"It had a very appealing title, 'reduction of gun violence act,'" he said. "If that's all you read before you voted, then you'd say yes. I mean, who's for gun violence? Nobody."

Donheffner, who lives in Marion County, takes gun safety seriously, but he thinks creating a permit system that requires a course in gun safety will be expensive and unwieldy. And he doesn't think it will do anything to cut down on the increased gun violence in Portland or to reduce mass shootings.

"It is going to put a lot of honest citizens through the wringer," he said. "The people that are committing gun violence aren't going to get a (permit to purchase), you're not going to get a background check, you're not going to go through all this rigamarole."

As might be expected, the measure passed overwhelmingly in Multnomah County. It was much closer in Deschutes County, a mostly rural region anchored by Bend. Voters there were nearly 50-50 for and against. With just over 100,000 votes cast, the measure was defeated by about 1,000 votes.

In rural, mountainous Wallowa County in northeastern Oregon, the numbers were almost exactly reversed from Multnomah, with 73% of voters saying no thank you to tighter gun laws. More people there voted against stricter gun laws than voted for Republican candidate for governor Christine Drazan. At the same time, the new rules were more popular to Wallowans than Democratic Gov.-elect Tina Kotek, who pulled about 100 fewer votes than Measure 114 did in the county.

Overall, the measure would have lost in 29 of Oregon's 36 counties. But the places where it won hold the bulk of the state's population.

And though it was a scramble to transition from that scrappy start to a polished messaging apparatus, it could be a model other states decide to follow, said Sean Holihan, the state legislative director for Giffords Law Center, which advocates for stricter gun laws and lent its expertise and fundraising might to the Yes on Measure 114 campaign.

"For the most part, when we deal with ballot initiatives, they're so unwieldy, so costly, that we really do rather work for the Legislature," Holihan said. "But voters brought (Measure 114) to the ballot."

Holihan said he saw examples of voters caring more about stopping gun violence than about party lines this election, even in states like Oregon and Michigan where gun rights are a dearly held value.

"I think this does give us some hope," he said. "Gun violence was top of mind for voters across the state."

He hopes the results are a message to Republican leaders that they should think twice about what legislation they're willing to get behind.

Oregon political consultant John Horvick, with DHM Research, said the key when crafting a ballot measure is to get as much in there as you can without making it too hard to vote yes. A thin margin of victory, he said, means you didn't leave anything on the table.

"If you're an advocate for gun control, you wouldn't want to pass something with 65%," he explained, "because maybe there was more control you could get."

Judging by the final tally, there was probably no stricter measure that could have passed. Just enough people said yes and nearly as many said no.

But while opinions on guns in Oregon are still sharply split, often on regional lines, the grassroots energy came from all over the state, Pastor Knutson said.

"This is not a victory over anybody," Knutson said. "We honor those who oppose this — (they're invited to) work with us to make this one the best, equitable laws for public safety ever."

And while not in direct response to the liberal pastor from Portland, Donheffner, the hunter from Salem, indicated he was ready for that work.

"The measure has a lot of flaws," he said. "I know there will be some people that don't want to fix it, they just want to kill it. And I respect that. But at the same time, if you have to live with it, you might as well try to fix it if it's possible."

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